Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Prom 1: Karina Canellakis makes history on the opening night of the Proms 2019

The young American conductor Karina Canellakis made history as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the Proms last night (19 July 2019) as she conducted the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with soloists Asmik Grigorian (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano), Ladislav Elgr (tenor), Jan Martiník (bass) and Peter Holder (organ) in Zosha Di Castri's Long is the Journey, Short Is the Memory (the world premiere of a BBC commission), Antonin Dvořák’s The Golden Spinning Wheel and Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Barbe & Doucet's new production of Die Zauberflöte at Glyndebourne

No one would pretend that Emanuel Schikaneder’s libretto for Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte would go down well with the #MeToo generation. Or with first, second or third wave feminists for that matter.

Pavarotti: A Film by Ron Howard

Ron Howard’s latest music documentary after The Beatles: Eight Days a Week and Made in America is a poignant tribute that allows viewers into key moments of Pavarotti’s career – but lacks a deeper, more well-rounded view of the artist.

Three Chamber Operas at the Aix Festival

Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Laurent Pelly's production of La Fille du régiment returns to Covent Garden

French soprano Sabine Devieilhe seems to find feisty adolescence a neat fit. I first encountered her when she assumed the role of a pill-popping nightclubbing ‘Beauty’ - raced from ecstasy-induced wonder to emergency ward - when I reviewed the DVD of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production of Handel’s Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno at Aix-en-Provence in 2016.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in Aix

Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.

Mozart's Travels: Classical Opera and The Mozartists at Wigmore Hall

There was a full house at Wigmore Hall for Classical Opera’s/The Mozartists’ final concert of the 2018-19 season: a musical paysage which chartered, largely chronologically, Mozart’s youthful travels from London to The Hague, on to Paris, then Rome, concluding - following stop-overs in European cultural cities such as Munich and Vienna - with an arrival at his final destination, Prague.

Tosca in Aix

From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe Honoré's Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.

A terrific, and terrifying, The Turn of the Screw at Garsington

One might describe Christopher Oram’s set for Louisa Muller’s new production of The Turn of the Screw at Garsington as ‘shabby chic’ … if it wasn’t so sinister.

Mozart Requiem in Aix

Pierre Audi, now the directeur général of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

A Rachmaninov Drama at Middle Temple Hall

It is Rachmaninov’s major works for orchestra - the Second and Third Piano Concertos, the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the Symphonic Dances - alongside the All-Night Vespers and the music for solo piano, which have earned the composer a permanent place in the concert repertoire today.

Fun, Frothy, and Frivolous: L’elisir d’amore at Las Vegas

There are a dizzying array of choices for music entertainment in Las Vegas ranging from Celine Dion and Cher to Paul McCartney and Aerosmith. Admittedly, these performers are a far cry from opera, but the point is that Las Vegas residents have many options when it comes to live music.

McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro returns to the Royal Opera House

David McVicar's production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has been a remarkable success since it debuted in 2006. Set with the Count of Almaviva's fearfully grand household in 1830, McVicar's trick is to surround the principals by servants in a supra-naturalistic production which emphasises how privacy is at a premium.

The Cunning Little Vixen at the Barbican Hall

The presence of a large cast of ‘animals’ in Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can encourage directors and designers to create costume-confections ranging from Disney-esque schmaltz to grim naturalism.

Barbe-Bleue in Lyon

Stage director Laurent Pelly is famed for his Offenbach stagings, above all others his masterful rendering of Les Contes d’Hoffmann as a nightmare. Mr. Pelly has staged eleven of Offenbach’s ninety-nine operettas over the years (coincidently this production of Barbe-Bleue is Mr. Pelly’s ninety-eighth opera staging).

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

The Princeton Festival Presents Nixon in China

The Princeton Festival has adopted a successful and sophisticated operatic programming strategy, whereby the annual opera alternates between a standard warhorse and a less known, more challenging work. Last year Princeton presented Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year the choice is Nixon in China by modern American composer John Adams, which opened before a nearly full house of appreciative listeners.

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at Grange Park Opera

When Engelbert Humperdinck's sister, Adelheid Wette, wrote the libretto to Hansel and Gretel the idea of a poor family living in a hut near the woods, on the bread-line, would have had an element of realism to it despite the sentimental layers which Wette adds to the tale.

Handel’s Belshazzar at The Grange Festival

What a treat to see members of The Sixteen letting their hair down. This was no strait-laced post-concert knees-up, but a full on, drunken orgy at the court of the most hedonistic ruler in the Old Testament.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Arrigo Boito, Mefistofele
23 Aug 2009

Boito: Mefistofele

The bravura performance by Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role is spoiled by the kitschy and incoherent staging of this production. Mefistofele is unique among operas based on the Faust legend in that it rather closely adheres to Goethe’s version.

Arrigo Boito, Mefistofele

Mefistofele: Ferruccio Furlanetto; Faust: Giuseppe Filianoti; Margherita/Elena: Dimitra Theodossiou; Marta: Sonia Zaramella; Wagner/Nereo: Mimmo Ghegghi; Pantalis: Monica Minarelli. Stefano Ranzani conducting. Stage Director: Giancarlo Del Monaco. Live performance at Teatro Massimo, Palermo, January 2008.

Dynamic 33581 [2DVDs]

$48.49  Click to buy

Indeed, the original, no longer extant, version of this work was approximately six hours in length. Even in the severely truncated revised version, Mefistofele has always proven itself to be a serious work, with a libretto that (like Busoni’s Doktor Faust) has some real literary merit. Unfortunately, following the reigning spirit of Regieoper in Europe, director Miguel Del Monaco and set designer Carlo Centolavigna have all but denuded this great opera of its serious intent.

Opting for a 20th-century setting (which in and of itself is not a problem), the “creative” team behind this production has missed the central point of Boito’s (and by extension, Goethe’s) drama, namely, the age-old Platonic opposition of the real and the ideal, in this case, represented by the Margherita/Elena (Helen of Troy) duality. While the ever-reliable Dimitra Theodossiou is afforded the opportunity to continue the tradition of performing both roles, the intention behind this appears to be economic rather than dramatic.

Act I is set in Frankfurt during Easter Sunday, but it is in the Germany of the 1920s, not during Martin Luther’s time. This is at best a questionable tactic because the seemingly peaceful interregnum of the Weimar Republic had such terrible consequences in the following decades. Overloading the already heavily-laden symbolism of the Faust legend with the tragedy of modern German history helps to obscure Faust’s personal dilemma. Adding to the incoherence of the staging, Del Monaco then proves not to have the courage of his convictions by at least being consistent with the historical implications of his staging of Act I, and sets Act IV, the Night of the Classical Sabbath, in Las Vegas. Helen of Troy is reduced to being a showgirl in a tawdry stage show and her attendant Nymphs reminded me of the June Taylor Dancers who used to open the Jackie Gleason TV Show of the 1960s with overhead shots featuring kaleidoscopic choreography.

The ultimate consequence of this staging of Mefistofele is that the characters of Faust and Margherita/Elena are reduced to mere appendages of Mefistofele’s mercurial personality. One of the problems with this opera has always been the overshadowing of Faust and Margherita by Mefistofele. Del Monaco’s staging has exacerbated tenfold this dramatic disparity.

The one saving grace of this production is Ferruccio Furlanetto’s Mefistofele. His performance incorporates a spectacular bass voice with animated acting. The acting, at times, may appear to be a bit over the top, but it is forgivable given the imbecility of the staging. Indeed, Furlanetto’s performance helps to divert attention away from the visual and back to the musical, and for that we must be grateful.

To be charitable to the performers, I thought that the singers and orchestra performed rather well, but at times it was difficult to gauge this accurately since this DVD suffers from very poor balance. Even allowing for the recording difficulties inherent in a live performance, there is really no excuse in this day and age for a professionally recorded DVD to have such poor audio quality.

This DVD will have appeal mostly to fans of Ferruccio Furlanetto. My advice is to turn off the video and listen to the voice.

William E. Grim

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):